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Scholars, Travels, Archives: Greek History and Culture Through the British School at Athens. Proceedings of a Conference Held at the National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens, 6–7 October 2006

July 2011 (115.3)

Book Review

Scholars, Travels, Archives: Greek History and Culture Through the British School at Athens. Proceedings of a Conference Held at the National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens, 6–7 October 2006

Edited by Michael Llewellyn Smith, Paschalis M. Kitromilides, and Eleni Calligas (BSA Studies 17). Pp. xxv + 253, figs. 95, pls. 18, table 1, maps 4. The British School at Athens, London 2009. $110. ISBN 978-090-488-760-0 (cloth).

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At the foundation of the British School at Athens (BSA) in 1886, the school’s stated objectives were fourfold: the advancement of the study of Greek archaeology “in all its departments”; the study “of every period” of Greek language and literature; the provision of support for British travelers; and the creation of a library with archaeological “and other suitable” books. Couched in such broad terms, these objectives were later interpreted as “the study of Greece in all its aspects.” The aim of the conference papers published here—with one omitted and another added—is to draw attention to other areas of study than the archaeology of Bronze Age and classical Greece for which the school is justly renowned. Accordingly, the papers concentrate on contributions made by the school to anthropology, ethnography, and folklore; to geography, the study of landscapes, and to Byzantine and later Greek history, art, language, and architecture. They consist of short biographical papers, followed by others on more general topics such as the archaeology of ethnography or the activities of BSA scholars during World War I. Numerous photographs, many from the school’s archives, illuminate the text.

The stage is set by papers about the work of two British philhellenes prior to the establishment of the school: George Finlay and Martin Leake. Finlay fought in the Greek War of Independence and spent most of the rest of his life in Greece. Unlike many of his contemporaries, his interest did not focus on classical Greece, but on the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman periods and on the Greece of his day. His principal work, A History of Greece from Its Conquest by the Romans to the Present Time (7 vols. [Oxford 1877]), expands on ideas of philosophic history, liberalism, and civic virtue. Leake visited Greece in 1802 and later served four years as military adviser to the Ottoman administration. Following his retirement in 1823, he lived in London and wrote books about his travels and Greek topography. He also corresponded at length with Finlay, revealing his disgust at Ottoman despotism and the inefficiency of the new Greek state. Finlay informed Leake about social and political events in Greece; Leake drew on this firsthand information to write political and economic pamphlets (e.g., Greece at the End of Twenty-Three Years of Protection [London 1851]). These two scholars paved the way for further British involvement in the study of post-Roman and modern Greece.

From the first, Byzantine art and architecture were important areas of study, and Sidney Howard Barnsley and Robert Weir Schultz were early adherents. Students of the Royal Academy of Arts, they appeared in Athens in the school’s second year and went about measuring, planning, drawing, and photographing Byzantine architecture wherever they found it. Barnsley seems to have taken responsibility for recording the architectural ornament and for most of the photography, while Weir Schultz drew and recorded the architecture. They were followed by other noteworthy Byzantinists, among them more recently A.H.S. (Peter) Megaw. Barnsley and Weir Schultz’s two years of work contributed significantly to the creation of the Byzantine Research Fund Archive, consisting today of more than 2,500 drawings and photographs. Both stayed committed to architecture, becoming successful practitioners in England.

Some scholars spread their interests more widely. And it is instructive to learn of the range of expertise of those more familiar to AJA readers perhaps for their archaeological work at classical and Bronze Age sites. Richard McGillivray Dawkins, for example, well known in archaeological circles for his work at Palaikastro and the Sanctuary of Artemis Orthia at Sparta, switched fields to work on folklore, modern Greek dialects (whence his authoritative Modern Greek in Asia Minor [Cambridge 1916]), and the more anthropological aspects of archaeology—belief systems, rituals, and the reconstruction of ancient habits of thought. He also collected embroideries and other ethnographic materials. These interests culminated in his appointment to Chair of Byzantine and Modern Greek Language and Literature at Oxford and to his Modern Greek Folktales (Oxford 1953). Alan John Bayard Wace is another whose curiosity ranged widely. Recognized universally for his archaeological work at Mycenae, he also took a serious interest—in company with Maurice Scott Thompson—in early 20th-century transhumant Vlach families (A.J.B. Wace and M.S. Thompson, The Nomads of the Balkans: An Account of Life and Customs Among the Vlachs of Northern Pindus [London 1916]), and he, too, collected and catalogued folk embroideries. The mild-mannered Frederick William Hasluck, whose early work focused on historical Cyzikus, also worked across disciplines, studying, for example, the 20th-century Greek-speaking Christian communities in Ottoman Pontus. His methods of research into connections and gaps between religious and ethnic communities in premodern days has suggested to some (not without disagreement, it should be said) that his was the brightest mind the school has had. Both Wace and Hasluck, incidentally, were active in British Intelligence work during World War I under the leadership of Compton Mackenzie (C. Mackenzie, First Athenian Memories [London 1931]).

What is missing? A more comprehensive assessment of Arthur Evans and his relationship with the school, perhaps; more on Arnold Toynbee’s experiences in Greece and subsequent ousting from the Chair of Modern Greek and Byzantine History at King’s College, London; a more detailed look at the reasons for Hasluck’s dismissal from the school; and more on the school’s interactions with John Campbell—in the 1950s one of the first social anthropologists working in Greece. But it would have been impossible to cover everything.

Accurately reflecting the purpose of the conference, the book effectively makes the point that students and scholars connected with the school have worked successfully on many cultures in many ways. Academic libraries will welcome it warmly.

John Griffiths Pedley
The University of Michigan
Ann Arbor, Michigan 48104

Book Review of Scholars, Travels, Archives: Greek  History and Culture Through the  British School at Athens, edited by Michael Llewellyn Smith, Paschalis M. Kitromilides, and Eleni Calligas

Reviewed by John Griffiths Pedley

American Journal of Archaeology Vol. 115, No. 3 (July 2011)

Published online at

DOI: 10.3764/ajaonline1153.Pedley

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